Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To The Teeth.

I know it’s a little early, but the Meanest Mother of 2007 nominations have been voted upon and a winner has been decided. It was an honor just to be nominated. Frankly, I was shocked when they called my name.

According to insiders, I was always in the Meanest Mother Top-Ten, but until last month I couldn’t expect anything better than fifth runner-up; possibly winning the talent competition in Vague Threats in Public. But then came China. With China came recalls and the magic word we kept hearing was “lead”. Lead, as we've all come to find out, is the navy-blue blazer of Chinese manufacturing: it goes with everything.

It goes with toys. It goes with baby bibs. It goes with children’s jewelry. It doesn’t go with children’s nightwear, however, because that’s where formaldehyde goes. I guess the upside is that our children will be stupid, but well-preserved. Luckily for us, so far Daughter has had no toys or do-dads on the list. However, I think this has less to do with our incredible luck and more to do with the amount of import inspectors having been cut drastically since 9/11. I suspect I am living in a fool’s paradise, which is kind of depressing because I had hoped my fool’s paradise would have nicer towels.

Which brings us to toothpaste. Earlier this year two lesser-known brands of toothpaste were recalled, owing to…yes, lead. Daughter’s favorite kinds of toothpaste are the kinds with names like “Super Straw-Nana-Lime”, well-known cartoon figures on the labels and complicated dispensers. In short, exactly the kinds which are made in China and produce that holographic affect when extruded on the brush with aid of recycled Napalm. For once, I decided to get ahead of my paranoia. Instead of waiting for the seriously understaffed Food and Drug Administrations inspectors to find out our toothpaste was tainted, I threw the iridescent pump-bottle of Hello Kitty Razz-Dazzle Sparkly Bubbli-Tastic Toothpaste and Grout Whitener into the Hazardous Waste bag and went in search of American-made toothpaste.

Which took me to Tom’s of Maine. At first, I was suspicious. “Of Maine,” I thought skeptically. “Sure, they are. City of Maine, Guangdong province, no doubt.” But unless their offers of factory tours in Sanford, Maine are just an incredible ruse to get me to part with four dollars, I imagine they are, in fact, an American-made product. Actually the web site does say their bar soaps are made in New England, the flossing ribbon is made in Pennsylvania and the liquid soap is made in Canada. I guess for complete disclosure the name should be “Tom’s of the Eastern Seaboard” but as long as you aren’t tainting my daughter’s brain, I’m willing to allow you a little artistic license. During my next trip to the grocery store, I bought Tom’s of Maine Cinnamint. The next morning, during the usual manic rush to school, I sent Daughter in to brush her teeth. Minutes later, having fed the pets some lesser meats of American origin, I raced in to the bathroom, to find her glaring at the tube. She waved it at me like an epee.

“This is new”, she said warningly.

I chose to ignore the tone and pretend that we all loved the new in my house.

“Yes, it’s Cinnamint. You love cinnamon, you love mint.”

We stared at one another.

“It’s from Maine!” I added unhelpfully.

“Where’s my Hello Kitty?” she asked suspiciously.

“Hello Kitty had…issues” I said, busying myself with brushing her hair, “Just try the new toothpaste.”

She stuck out her tongue and let a single taste bud get an inch or so from the toothbrush. She then commenced to gagging and flinging herself around the bathroom. From the gasped words barely issuing from her clenched teeth, I was led to understand that Tom’s of Maine Cinnamint was the spiciest and nastiest hell-rot ever forced into a recyclable tube, and that if I forced her to use it even once, the state would get involved. We spent several minutes negotiating a temporary DMZ. I would rinse nearly all of the vileness off of her innocent toothbrush. In return for which, she would brush her teeth with the barest scrapings of Cinnamint this morning and stop falling down on the ground and grabbing her throat. Before the evening brushing, I would find a Tom’s of Maine flavor which wasn’t designed by Satan.

Because I have nothing better to do with my time, I went back to another grocery store and found the Tom’s of Maine flavors for children. Erring on the side of caution, and not wishing to watch Daughter do her interpretive dance of anaphylactic shock again, I bought the strawberry flavor, because she usually voted for strawberry-like flavors. The nights’ brushing began with sniffing the toothpaste and then tentatively touching it with her finger before she allowed her tongue anywhere near it. It was like watching an Aboriginal tribe find their first empty Coke bottle. She tasted the air around the toothpaste and frowned.

“It doesn’t taste like my strawberry toothpaste”, she judged.

I tasted a bit. It was actually rather nice. It tasted not unlike strawberries.

“It tastes not unlike strawberries,” I wisely noted.

“Yes,” she agreed, in a tone which suggested that maybe I had sucked on a few lead-paint soaked toys in my time. “But strawberry toothpaste doesn’t taste like strawberries. I like the way the pretend strawberries taste. And this toothpaste doesn’t sparkle. I’m not going to use it.”

I finally lost what was left of my mind, my patience and my sense of humor. A free and frank exchange of views followed. My general meanness was discussed at some length. After the dog hid under the bed and a court-appointed mediator was brought in, we finally reached a compromise. When she is an adult and can drive, she will drive to the store and buy her own toothpaste. It will not only sparkle and taste like nothing in nature, it will have a half-life measured in minutes and cause her to spontaneously grow a fin every two years. She will buy it and use it and I won’t be able say anything because I will no longer be the boss of her. I am also very, very unpleasant, and many other friends of hers have nice mothers who let them pick out their own toothpaste and also let their daughters wear heels to school. This wasn’t completely on-topic, but I think she felt as long as we were discussing my many faults, she might as well get everything on record.

Fine by me. When you are the Meanest Mom in the world you don’t wear that title lightly. You earn it, and then you have to keep earning it, because mothers are competing for my title all the time. Somewhere out there is a mother refusing to buy a set of Pokemon cards. Somewhere out there another mother forcing a child to stop hitting her brother, even after he started making that noise in the back of this throat. Somewhere out there a woman is irrationally insisting a child wash both the backs and the fronts of his hands.

If I don’t force my child to brush her teeth with American-made poison twice a day, I might have to give back my tiara and sash.


Blogger Suzanne said...

meanest mom in the world is a title i claim proudly along with my newest one - meddling mother of the bride to be.

quinn, welcome to the mean moms' club - just wait until she is a teen and you get to try out for meanest mom in the entire universe. don't even get me started on the driving bit - i still get the shakes and have to deep breathing to stop the flashbacks.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've proudly held the title of Meanest Mom in the World (TM) since 1992. I believe your daughter wasn't even a thought in 1992.

Our dentist in Boston, which is quite close to Maine, says that children do not have to use toothpaste at every brushing. He said that because MY daughter hates any and all toothpastes, and believe me, I've tried them all. She doesn't like the 'feeling' that toothpaste leaves on her teeth. After years of battles, I finally agreed with the dentist that every brushing would not mean a fight over toothpaste.

Now, I let her brush with the Tom's orange flavored paste about every other day. She brushes twice a day with water, which does remove the plaque. Only when her breath gets particularly oderific do I order the toothpaste. So you might want to confer with your dental professionals and save yourself some of the angst.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm convinced that Sweet Son #1 washes more toothpaste down the sink than what he uses to clean his teeth. I'm relieved to see margalit's comments, but it may mean that my sink is a little less minty-fresh than normal...

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move over, sister! There are a lot of us sharing this throne!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Narya said...

Perhaps because I'm covered in granola, I've been using Tom's products for, oh, 30 years. I've used that toothpaste exclusively, and I find that most other toothpastes taste kind of plastic. they've been bought recently--I want to say by Colgate. they also make good soaps and shampoos, and I use Tom's deodorant and love it.

[end commercial plug]

You may be the Meanest Mother, but look at the material it provides! Little does daughter know that you're mean just so you can blog about it and make us giggle.

2:58 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I have only been able to retain one joke in my memory banks, and now is the time to share it. It comes from David Lettermen, who announced he finally found a purpose for those little bits of toothpaste that stick to the sink...Dinner Mints!

Okay...I'll leave you alone now.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must now sheepishly admit I hate toothpaste and now that I'm nearly 50 years old, I'm coming clean. I have never used it ever. (my poor mother, what a worry list) A cleaning substance should just not taste like food. And the foam, I'm choking just thinking about it. Just brush really well, use a timer if you have to, for 2 minutes. And be sure to floss. I also use a little toothpick in all the pockets and along the gum line once a day. My teeth are fine.

7:10 AM  
Blogger guerrilla girl said...

"Somewhere out there a woman is irrationally insisting a child wash both the backs and the fronts of his hands." And not just the backs and fronts, but for 20 seconds! The 13-year-old and I recently reenacted the Napoleonic Wars over this issue, which has resulted in his screaming, "1...2...3..." every time I send him off to wash up. But it gets the job done.

8:22 AM  
Blogger MamaTeeThree said...

See, now, I thought I had earned the Meanest Mom title. I have been known to say terribly evil things like "yes, you must wear clothes when people come over," and "no, you may NOT color on the walls with a Sharpie." You'd think I tortured them with hot pokers once a day for all the wounded and forlorn looks I get.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I just have ONE question.

Why are there so many people still alive in China?

Do they not play with toys, nor brush their teeth?

I don't get it.

It does seem like it's either 'buy American', or 'bye American'.

I want more choices.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



7:56 PM  
Blogger landismom said...

Jeez, and here I thought that my insistence that my son not only wash his hands but also flush the toilet (?!) made me a shoe-in for Meanest Mom of 2007!

I can see I've got some stiff competition. Better go mean it up a bit.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn, I USED to use Tom's, until I decided it was better to go full Organic wherever possible. And I was rewarded with the discovery of a Rasberry flavored paste from the brand Nature's Gate. It is made here, and because it's organic you can be sure it's NOT going to have the things that we're all worried about. And if daughter doesn't like Rasberry, I for one would be amazed...amazed enough to pay for it even. {Note to all, this offer is ONLY good for Quinn Cummings. ;> }

1:08 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I've only recently found you, but lady, you just made my day. I did not give anyone natural strawberry flavored American made toothpaste, but I teach middle school, and I needed some humor.

That was one great post.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

and i thought my mom was the Meanest Mom EVER. who knew?!

i also think i've found the connection - the reason all the toys from China have lead pain in 'em is because we've forgotten about the Starving Children in China who would LOVE to have our stuffed green peppers.

'nuff said.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

I am happy to share the title with you, but I've been told many times that I am the meanest. I make them wear hats and zip their coats when it's below 30 degrees outside! The horror! I actually make 11 yr old dd brush ALL of her hair - not just the top layer. Oh the torture! And the worst of all - if they want snack after dinner, they have to eat more than the bread and two bites of the pasta for dinner!

I so enjoy your blog - thanks for taking the time to do it!

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this essay! I'm going to make my daughter read it.

FYI - about why the Chinese are still alive in their lead lined world of manufactured goods - they buy American. Seriously. There was a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, sorry I can't provide you with a date, that talked about Chinese people who refuse to purchase things made in China, because they know they're poisonous and shoddy.


9:24 AM  
Blogger Melodee said...

That's right. And you will be handing over that sash and tiara to me, Meanest Mom in the World, First Runner-Up. (I had no idea I'd lost to you, actually. I'm shocked. I thought my title was secure!)

4:33 PM  
Blogger Peg said...

I once sat at the table until 9:30 PM with a bowl of homemade soup congealing in front of me as my Mom cleaned up the kitchen, did a load of laundry and finally sat down to read a book. She was not going to let me leave the table without eating that disgusting (and now cold) soup. Horrible hunks of meat with little blobs of fat floating around....shudder. That evening my mother was the clear winner.

I wonder what "Meanest Mom" moments my daughter will come up with when the nominations are made next year.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

My friends and I have many conversations about why we are not going to get the mom of the year award... perhaps we should change it to Meanest mom... hmmm!

2:33 PM  
Blogger CelticBuffy said...

Just a note on Tom's on Maine - Cinnamint. I tried this on my oldest when she was about nine and went through the "yuck, gross" spiel. As we live in a fairly rural area she had no choice but to use it. Now at 14 it is the only flavor/brand she will use and I stock up whenever I hit the health food store. Who knew?!

7:01 PM  
Blogger berit_k said...

my six-year old son will be so very depressed that i lost and will vehemently argue that i must be the meanest mom in all of arkansas, at a minimum. he will cite numerous sources and probably have a powerpoint presentation on the sovereignty of my title. i heartily congratulate you on your hard-won battle.
as for us, we prefer the boys with fins- so they'll keep using the batman razzle dazzle.
you may be the meanest, but you're one of the funniest damn people i've ever had the pleasure to read.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever I am being particularly mean to my 2-year-old, and she starts to throw a tantrum, I ask her if she would like me to call social services for her so she can tell them how mean I am. I sympathize with her that it must be awful to have a mother who bathes her and teaches her to pick up her toys.

I hope I won't freak you out by telling you, but I was named after you. My parents saw The Goodbye Girl when my mom was pregnant with me. They thought you were so great in the movie, they wanted to name me after you if I was a girl.

10:43 PM  

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